Q. I have decided to give property development a spin after my grandparents left me some inheritance. Being a complete Amateur can you give me some tips on the ‘Do’s and Dont’s’ of property development?
A. Property development if you get it right can be a very lucrative business and if you have cash burning a hole in your pocket then placing it into property would be considered a very sensible idea as long as you follow some simple rules. We’re all tempted by the idea of buying a house, doing it up and selling it for a huge profit. Sadly it’s not as easy as it appears. Property renovation is fraught with traps and even in a rising market you can lose large sums of money. As an amateur it can be very easy to underestimate the cost of the build and the time it will take to complete. One of the most basic errors is buying in the wrong location, a new property developer may be led to believe a place will be the next up-and-coming area but if it’s not a nice place to live, why will anyone want to spend a fortune buying there? Houses on or off busy main roads and those in areas with poor transport links, for example, are always going to sell for a discount. Most amateur developers think it’s easier to find an opportunity than it actually is, but remember you are in competition with professionals who spend 100 per cent of their time hunting for profitable projects. Your renovation project is only as good as your builder – so scope out their work first and get references from past clients. Before giving them the go ahead, make sure they’ve signed a fixed price contract – without this it is easy to get ripped off if the build continues for longer than expected. When it comes to the actual renovations as tempting it is to buy the cheapest of everything, potential buyers will notice immediately if you cut corners. Even if your budget is small, choose appliances, fixtures and fittings because you know they will last, not because they resemble something more expensive. Don’t over-design as buyers often get put off by lavish marble bathrooms with gold taps and silk carpets. Go for a clean, fresh finish rather than anything too fancy, inflicting your personal taste on a project alienates buyers. Aim to keep rooms as bright and light as possible, giving buyers a blank canvas on which to project their own ideas. Finally, don’t be greedy! You might think your house is a million times better than when you bought it but this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s worth a million times more. Greed is a major stumbling block for achieving a good price, if your house is on the market for too much money it will sit there and lose its momentum. Buyers are too savvy these days and have a good idea of how much a property is actually worth. It’s a good idea to get valuations by at least three estate agents before placing it on the market.